Stop van when driver incapacitated

My daughter saw a news story about a boy who was able to grab the steering wheel, steer the car to the shoulder, and stop it when the driver became incapacitated. I told her to shift the van into neutral if that happens to us. She reminded me that I have to step on the brake to shift gears. Can the van be shifted into neutral from the passenger’s seat without pressing the brake pedal? How about if the driver’s foot is still on the gas? Thanks

I suspect the brake must be applied only when shifting out of park.


@Purebred is correct. The shifter can be bumped into neutral from drive without pressing the brake. The brake must be pressed only to shift out of park.

A friend of mine died of a heart attack driving his 14 y/o granddaughter home from school. She grabbed the wheel, pulled neutral and steered the van off the road.


I’d be surprised if any car didn’t allow this, as you might need to restart a stalled car quickly while it’s still coasting for safety. Regardless, just try it and see.

A few years ago, after some runaway car story in the news, I decided to try the neutral shift. Driving and accelerating, I just shoved the shifter into N. I worked perfectly. And, you can also try the rev limiter, too. Just shove the lever into N and floor it. It will rev up to the red line, and then sputter there. It really will.

I’ve seen somebody telling a story here that some cars do not engage the parking pawl above the certain speed, so he actually yanked the lever all the way to “P” (probably pressing the shift-lock button in the process) and back to “D” and it did not destroy HIS car, but I would not recommend repeating this experiment with you car :slight_smile:

AFAIK getting shifter between N and D without need to press on the shift-lock button or flipping shifter aside is universally adopted convention among most (if not all?) automakers

Turning the key to “off” is another possibility, but the above methods should be tried first b/c when the key is off you lose power-assisted steering. But if all else fails in an emergency like this, turn the key “off” and steer as best you can to the side of the road. The passenger may be able to apply the parking brake too, depending on where the actuator handle is. On my Corolla the parking brake actuator is between the two front seats, so would be very easy for the passenger to actuate. I had a blind friend who I took on errands and stuff. They asked what they should do if they were in a parked car , driver buying gasoline or whatever, and the car started to roll away. I showed them how to stop the car using the parking brake lever in an emergency. Then I showed them how they could stop the car that way even if it was going down the road.

Thanks everyone for your help.

I was in a work truck and the brakes went out, it s felt like I was speeding up, managed to turn left at a 3 way intersection and slow down enough to limp it to the shop with only the bottom 1/8 of the pedal any use.

Yes, you should be able to shift from drive to neutral without pressing the brake pedal.

In addition, if your transmission has a manual mode (with a + and - sign to manually control your automatic transmission), your daughter can downshift before the vehicle slows and she shifts to neutral. Of course she won’t want to downshift if your foot is pressing the throttle.